Carroll County residents can express their opinions Thursday about a state law prohibiting retaliation against whistleblowers and restricting gifts or financial gain for county officials or employees from certain organizations.
The Carroll Board of County Commissioners will hold a public hearing at 9 a.m., Thursday, at 225 N. Center St., in Westminster, to give residents a chance to comment on the county ordinance that reflects the changes in the state law.
The Maryland General Assembly enacted the ethics law amendments during the 2021 legislative session, and amendments to county law will correspond with changes that include new conflict of interest provisions and financial disclosure requirements for state elected officials.
State law says that counties and local governments must have ordinances that are at least as strict or stricter than the state law, according to County Attorney Timothy Burke, who introduced proposed amendments to the county’s ethics ordinance during the board’s Sept. 22 meeting.
New conflict of interest provisions state that an official or employee of a local government may not knowingly accept a gift, directly or indirectly, from a person that the official or employee knows is doing business or seeking to do business with the Maryland Association of Counties or the Maryland Municipal League.
MACo and MML are both nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations that support local governments across the state.
Government officials must disclose gifts in excess of $20 in value from an association or any entity in Maryland that only represents counties or municipal corporations. That includes MML and MACo. Another amendment prohibits officials and employees from disclosing or using confidential information for economic benefit. This now includes former government officials and former government employees.
The new provisions would also prohibit an official from retaliating against an individual for reporting or participating in an investigation of a potential violation of local ethics law.
Burke will recommend to commissioners that the public record remain open for 10 days after the hearing to allow more residents to post comments on the ordinance; however, the commissioners may adopt the changes Thursday.